Last week’s assault on the US Capitol raises many questions. Yes, the institutions and the process prevailed and Joe Biden’s election was certified after a long, violent disruption by Trump extremists. The mob vomited the diet it had fed on for the last four years, and many years before on the Dark Web.
First, will the institutions prevail next time, or the time after next, when rabid supporters decide they don’t like the results? Given the political schism, distrust of future election results is more, not less, likely. The thousands who descended on Washington are among the 74 million who voted for Trump. Thousands more sitting at home were in agreement with what went down. It’s naïve to define them as the fringe.
Second, will Republicans who cynically enabled Trump to further their own political careers be held accountable? A staggering 147 House and Senate Republicans ‘objected’ to the results even after the storming of the Capitol. Senators Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz are the ‘proud boys’ and leaders of this roster. They do political theatre of the dangerous. The number of 147 is awful for the story of US democracy even if demagoguery is to remain an essential ingredient of politics. The lesson applies to all democracies.
Third, the growing influence of hate groups and White supremacists in the US police and military — at least three Air Force and Navy veterans were involved in the sacking of the Capitol. The policeman who died after being beaten by the mob was a Trump supporter, a fact Democrats won’t highlight. The Pentagon has battled the problem for years, but not frontally. When the larger society registers a rise in extremism, it will show up in the military.
All of the above lead to the question of free speech and how to monitor and regulate what people in all democracies want as a fundamental right. Twitter’s ban on Trump excited a spirited debate — should private companies have the power to banish people from the public square or should elected representatives? Even German Chancellor Angela Merkel called the ban ‘problematic’, which it is, because there are no rules. Dictators still flourish on Twitter and post ‘findings’ from research done in modern-day concentration camps.
Finally, a question about what the US is at its core. The horrors of January 6 have led to endless platitudes on ‘this is not who we are’ and countless derivatives of ‘we need to unite’, including from Biden. This is meaningless political prattle, because it doesn’t address history and the roots of the problem — White supremacy, entitlement, racism and the deep divisions. Every time Blacks gain, as they did in Georgia by sending their first senator to Washington, there’s a Whitelash.
Look back to 1861 when pro-slavery Confederate states started the Civil War over their special need to own and degrade Blacks, and then to 2021 when a Trump mobster carried the Confederate flag into the Capitol. Or to 1876 when Democrats (then pro-slavery) demolished progressive laws passed by Republicans (then the good guys) under ‘Radical Reconstruction’ to treat Blacks in the South more equally.
They forced Republicans into a horrible compromise — Dems demanded control of the South as a price for ‘certifying’ Republican Rutherford B Hayes’ election. This led to a century of Black humiliation, segregation and disenfranchisement. The loss-gain-loss-gain cycle seems unending.
P.S. This in not schadenfreude, but in the spirit of Mark Twain, who famously said how at 14, he thought his father was so ignorant he could hardly stand him. ‘But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.’ When I was a young student in JNU, I couldn’t stop talking about the coups the CIA engineered, the apartheid regime the US supported, the constant snubs it delivered India and, of course, the gratuitous evil Henry Kissinger represented. All this before I had even read Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States.
But after 22-odd years in the US, I am surprised how much the country has grown on me with all its bipolarity, its obvious warts, its divided cities.
It is in the interest of all democracies to wish American democracy a speedy recovery.
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1 Comment on this Story
Sridhar Reddy4 days ago
It was violent....?? compared to the ANTIFA initiated riots? They just walked into the capitol. No murders no arson no torching or violence.